Tag: Hotels

  • Some Decorations on the William Penn Hotel

    “William Penn Hotel” on the marquee

    The architect Benno Janssen, one of the titans of Pittsburgh architecture, was very fond of terra cotta, as he showed early in his career in the exuberant Wedgwood patterns of the Buhl Building. The William Penn is more restrained, but it is still a feast for lovers of ornament.

    Terra-cotta head
    A similar head from the front
    Lunette
    Windows
    Window with false balcony
    William Penn between griffins
    Lantern
    Egg and dart with foliage
    Lantern
    William Penn between griffins
    Marquee
    Stylized head

    The head of William Penn in ceremonial Quaker headdress.

  • Old Hotel in McKees Rocks

    Building on Island Avenue at John Street

    Old Pa Pitt is simply guessing that this building on Island Avenue at John Street used to be a hotel, in the old-fashioned Pittsburgh sense of the term: that is, a bar with rooms for rent upstairs. The ground floor was obviously a commercial establishment of some sort, though it has been filled in and made an apartment; the location is right above the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad shops and roundhouses, making this an ideal stop for railroad men who were not virtuous enough or poor enough for the Railroad YMCA four steps away across John Street. It was built before the YMCA, probably in the 1890s. The painted billboard on the side once advertised Pittsburgh Home Savings to the traffic inbound on Island Avenue.

    Front of the building

    Whoever invented those ubiquitous front doors with the three staggered lights probably made a billion dollars and retired to the Cayman Islands.

    There are some spots in McKees Rocks where time seems to have stopped moving forward a while ago, and this building is one of them. Note the truck cab parked beside it.

    Old truck
  • Two Hotels in Sharpsburg

    Lafayette Hotel

    Sharpsburg has a paucity of street names and has to double up on many of them. At the western end of the borough, Main Street splits into two Main Streets. On South Main Street we find two similar hotels from the 1890s, both in the kind of German classical-Romanesque hybrid style that old Pa Pitt has learned to call Rundbogenstil. “Hotel” meant “neighborhood bar with rooms for rent”; such hotels popped up in neighborhoods everywhere in our area, because it was much easier to get a liquor license for a hotel than for a bar.

    First, the Lafayette Hotel (probably not its original name), which not only still has a lively and beloved bar on the ground floor, but even still has rooms for rent.

    Entrance
    96 on the date stone

    The date stone: built in 1896.

    H in a decoration

    This probably tells us the initial of the original name of the hotel.

    Stained glass

    An oval stained-glass window.

    A block away, we have the Sharpsburger Hotel, now apartments.

    Sharpsburger hotel
    1893 on the date stone

    Built in 1893.

    Fourth St. street sign on the side of the building

    A bit of Romanesque carved foliage and a street sign that probably dates from the 1890s. Old Pa Pitt is collecting old street signs on the sides of buildings, by the way, which was the usual place for them in the 1800s. Both these hotels retain their corner signs.

    Sharpsburger Hotel
  • The Schenley, Newly Built

    From Our Cities, Picturesque and Commercial, a souvenir book of Pittsburgh and Allegheny published in 1898, the year the Hotel Schenley was built. Except for the sensitively matched addition in the front and the loss of the cornice, the building looks much the same today.

    Note the big expanse of nothing on the hill to the right. That was still open land belonging to Mary Schenley when the hotel was built.

  • Hotel Schenley Advertisement from 1929

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 29, 1929, page 10. Note the exaggerated height; compare it to the proportions in old Pa Pitt’s pictures.

  • Hotel Schenley, Oakland

    This picture reminded old Pa Pitt of an old postcard, so he rendered it in two colors to make it look even more like an old postcard. The rest of the pictures in the article are in natural colors.

    Designed by Rutan & Russell, this was our first skyscraper hotel, and the most luxurious hotel in the city when it went up in 1898—at a time when it was actually at the edge of the urbanized area. It remained the Pittsburgh base of the rich and famous for half a century, but it declined after the Second World War, and in 1956 was sold to Pitt. It is now the William Pitt Union, with many of the exterior and interior details scrupulously preserved.

    Loggia
    Corner view
    Rear
    Side, from Soldiers and Sailors Hall
    Hotel Schenley
    The same as the first picture, but in natural colors.

    Addendum: See a picture of the Hotel Schenley in 1898, the year it was built.

  • Hotel Lieb, South Side

    Hotel Lieb

    Here are some utility cables with an old hotel behind them. The Hotel Lieb was a neighborhood hotel in the common Pittsburgh sense of being a bar with a few rooms above, because liquor licenses were fiendishly hard to get for bars but easy for hotels. It was built in the early 1900s at the intersection of Sarah Street with the oddly angled 29th Street, and the unusual angle is mitigated by cutting off the corner and putting the entrance there.

    Inscription
    Sarah Street side
  • Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown

    Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown

    This hotel was built in 1959 as the Pittsburgh Hilton & Towers. It was probably meant by its architect to have the elegance of simplicity, and no one will argue about the simplicity. In the 2000s it was decided to add an egregiously mismatched postmodern front to the building; the Hilton, though, seemed to be constantly running out of money, and the addition sat half-finished for years. It was finally completed under the new owners.

  • W. Daub Building, South Side Slopes

    W. Daub Building

    This frame Second Empire building was put up in the 1880s, and old maps show it as belonging to W. Daub. It has seen better days: it has been sheathed in aluminum, and what was probably a storefront looks as though it has been filled in with a contractor’s remnants. If we look at the third floor, we can see a few lingering bits of what was once very decorative folk-art woodwork. Doubtless all the windows and doorways had similarly carved trim until the siding salesman came along. If old Pa Pitt had to guess, he would imagine this was a neighborhood hotel, which is to say a bar with rooms above to earn a “hotel” liquor license. You would hardly guess from the exterior, but there is still a working bar on the ground floor, apparently much beloved by the locals.

    Carved wood
    Dormer
    Oblique view
  • Spring Lane Hotel, Arlington

    Ghost sign

    Making your establishment a “hotel” was an easy way to get a liquor license for a neighborhood bar. There did have to be rooms available, of course, and it was noted of some of these establishments that the traffic was mostly local. This one is a little larger than many; perhaps it made some of its money as a rooming house. Hotels like this were still common in older neighborhoods as late as thirty years ago; few are left now, since there is no longer much advantage to maintaining the dusty little rooms upstairs.

    This hotel probably dates from before Prohibition; it was here by 1923, at any rate. Layers of ghost signs document multiple proprietors; the only one old Pa Pitt was able to read with certainty was Wm. Deckenbach.

    Spring Lane Hotel
    Front of the hotel
    Spring Lane Hotel